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Level: Intermediate
Length: 13 mi (20.9 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Network
Elevation: +976/249 ft
Total: 150 riders

Mountain Biking Sweetwater Preserve

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#22 of 422 mountain bike trails in Arizona
#605 in the world

The Sweetwater Preserve features about thirteen miles of singletrack built by mountain bikers. A pristine piece of desert nestled between existing development, it is truly a gem and holds one of the densest collections of saguaro cactus in the Tucson area.

The singletrack begins to the right as you exit the parking lot. Stay right to enter a thick forest of saguaros. Look for a rare crested saguaro among them. At the top of a small pass, continue to the right on the "Black Rock" and "Sun Circle" loops. Hang on for a high speed blast through the Ocotillos on Black Rock, the longer of the loops.

After finishing the loops turn right to climb the semi-technical Lost Arrow Trail. At the next junction a left turn provides a more challenging option, Red Canyon Trail. Close the loop by descending the Wildflower Ridge Trail, enjoying birds eye views of the entire preserve.

First added by smorris on Jan 12, 2009. Last updated May 2, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
Exit I-10 westbound on Camino Del Cerro. After 3 miles turn left on Tortolita Rd. The road dead ends at the parking lot after one mile.
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Sweetwater Preserve Trail map

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Christopher M (on Jul 18, 2020)
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Dry (on Sep 12, 2020)
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Sweetwater Preserve

Mountain Bike Trails Near Tucson, Arizona

Intermediate | 19 mi
Intermediate | 8 mi

Rider questions

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  • Christopher M   ✓ supporter

    This is the best trail I have ridden in Arizona. What sets it apart is how well it is laid out and marked. Every decision point is shown and the trail itself is a great mix of smooth flowy singletrack with some technical sections thrown in. I rode the full outside loop which is just under 11 miles. Will defiantly be coming back.

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  • TK34

    4 stars only because I'm stingy with the 5's. This trail is almost all flow with some of the best Tucson scenery. The tall Seguaro are beautiful and numerous, yet they shouldn't get in the way unless you really screw up. Some climbing, but not crazy. I would rate most of it Beginner/Intermediate. Ride it!

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  • This is considered the best trail in Tucson for those looking for a scenic, rocky ride that is technically challenging. If you are coming into town. Tucson Bike Rentals is now the only shop in town offering mountain bike rentals. BikeTucson.com.

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  • CFM   ✓ supporter

    A really fun place to ride. The terrain is fantastic and the vegetation is awe inspiring. Trails are laid out very well with a good mix of flowing and technical challenge. Signage is top notch.

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  • abegold

    New trails added making the total 16 miles. The new trails to the east of parking are easiest. Older sections rockier and more diverse. Saguaro forest, at least 3 crested saguaros. Tasty wolfberries (red) in spring. Excellent wildflower area with fields of bladderpods and much more.

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  • Ivan Bartos

    I live in Tucson, and like the variety of trails to pick from here. This trail system has become my favorite, which is saying something based on what's available. The recently completed "Desperado Loop" has become my go-to trail whenever I get a chance to introduce someone new to the sport. It is a fast, flowy and really fun loop which covers 4.16 miles. It is different than most of the other trails in that it really has no truly rocky sections, the climbs and descents are moderate, but the design takes full advantage of the lay of the land, creating super awesome stretches of undulating, roller-coaster single track and a few tight turns at speed.

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  • Jammerslammer

    The new desporado trail is great. High speed lots of undulation, lots of sweeping turns . Very fast. Love it!

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  • 30mmgunpilot

    This trail system has more than doubled my abilities (but I still suck!). This was the first true singletrack I've ridden in more than 20 years, but I've visited Sweetwater about 12 times in 6 short weeks. (A few other places, too). Many obstacles I initially "hiked" over, I've learned to ride over. Yesterday was my last ride on this sweet trail..I'm leaving Arizona for a couple years tomorrow. This trail is a highlight memory...it really got me involved in mountain biking again!

    To the creators of Sweetwater...THANK YOU! It is a wonderful place to go biking. Job well done!

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  • RobertBrz2

    YeeeeHaaaa Tucson...What an amazing day I had here. I only visited tow for a few rides aand this was a highlight.. Great scenery and the riding was fantastic. I rode for miles and miles and still like I could go for more....Plus there is a new area being developed that is more flow and go... I did quite a bit of the Cross Country stuff and would go back here again and again...A TRUE GEM of the southwest

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  • 30mmgunpilot

    This is a very nice series of interconnected trails. Most of them are suitable for beginners, but there are some definite challenging spots. The saguaro vista trail is spectacular, try to do it in the golden hours right after sunrise or in the hour before sunset. If you're visiting from out of town or out of state, don't miss that one. It's short, but I rode it multiple times...you are literally riding between Saguaros. That's a novel experience. Slime in tubes or tires is advisable.

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  • Hap Proctor   ✓ supporter

    Quite a bit more than a beginner trail. Beautiful ride through rocky canyons with an abundance of Saguaro, Barrel, and Prickly Pear cactus along with other desert flora that can do some damage if you go off trail. Several loops available that are similar with the exception of Roller Coaster, which will end your ride with a smile. "You are here" map signs found at every junction, making it impossible to get lost.

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  • HollidayRoad

    Very rocky, with beautiful views. Easy to a few technical rock garden type spots. Riding through all the cacti was very unique. Definitely worth the trip.

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  • xavier61

    I rode Sweetwater for the first time today. The trail is remarkably well maintained, kudos to SDMB. Marking are very clear, no way to get lost in here. The trail is not just a MTB trail, it is multi-use. Be prepared for hikers, joggers and horseback riders at any point. Everyone I encountered was friendly. There is not a single direction to ride, so be careful as to who is around the corner. As a relative noob to MTB I really enjoyed some of the trails. A lot of rocks are in the trail. If you don't have the technique or the leg strength you will be doing a bit of hike a bike. Elevations are fairly consistent, no sharp inclines, but if you can't keep moving you will lose your momentum and be walking. I'll definitely be back again for another ride.

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  • Nefarious Eduardo

    Enough challenge to kick the craving, and there are a few technical spots but really only good for a quick ride. Advanced riders might be wanting a little more after.

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  • Jimmywingnut

    Sweetwater has become one of my goto trails. SDMB has been working hard to add new sections. Lots of options and the trail keeps you honest. Great technical spots, climbs and great flow.

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  • Ivan Bartos

    I've been riding this trail fairly regularly over the past few months as it's close to home. It's also been a great platform for learning some valuable MTB skills. This park has a number of different loops intersecting regularly enough that you can vary your direction of travel and combinations of loops to keep a regular rider entertained. These trails overall are easy enough to give a novice confidence while they master a number of important skills: negotiating some rocky drops and climbs, making a sharp 90 degree turn at the bottom of a nice downhill section; maintaining momentum during a short, steep loose climb; picking saguaro needles from various body parts when you don't manage to make some of the twisties sections. It's not unusual to spot deer, rabbits, quail and other wildlife while riding this spectacular saguaro forest. It can be VERY hot in the summer months, so bring a hydration pack with at least 70-100 oz's of water and tools to fix a flat if you have a closer encounter with the flora on this trail.

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  • Tomahawk3Niner

    I've been mountain biking for a few months now and have been on some really easy trails and on some that just scared me.

    I visited Sweetwater for the first time this past Sunday and while I enjoyed myself, I am not sure I would consider this a beginner system. At least not as a beginner myself. The rocks presented some challenges I was not ready for, or that I hadn't the slightest clue how to tackle. There were a good number of spots where I opted to hop off and carry the bike a short distance before proceeding.

    The scenery is awesome and it is worth checking out, but if you're a noob be prepared for some pucker-time.

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